What your mama didn’t tell you: A body positivity discussion for National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Gloria Lucas presents “Eating Disorders and Body Love: The Things Mama Didn’t Tell You” at the Motley Feb. 26 (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life).

The Scripps Eating Disorder Alliance and Tiernan Field House collaborated to host Gloria Lucas, activist and Nalgona Positivity Pride founder, at the Motley Coffeehouse Feb. 26 for the event “Eating Disorders and Body Love: The Things Mama Didn’t Tell You.”

The event was open to all 7Cs and took place during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It featured a workshop led by Lucas that attempted to explain how historical trauma and colonialism has affected people of color and indigenous people’s relationships with their bodies, as they deal with current societal body ideals and the dominant narratives surrounding eating disorders.

Nalgona Positivity Pride is a Xicana-indigenous body-positive organization that provides education and community support concerning eating disorders. Founder Lucas said her intent was to “connect eating disorders to a social justice framework … and talk about who is never at the table in eating disorder awareness.”

“I realized nobody ever told me this history,” Lucas said. “If you go to a general provider of mental health, they are going to tell you, ‘You have a problem.’ They’re not going to look at 500 years of societal oppression. They’re not going to look at current health disparities. They will say, ‘You have a problem.’”

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Students and organizers appreciated the event’s focus on intersectionality and inclusivity.

Clarissa Ann-Ylagan SC ’19, founder and president of the 5C-inclusive Scripps Eating Disorders Alliance, said via email that she wanted to foster conversations “rooted in empathy.” She believed the event fulfilled the original mission of NEDA Week: To “increase inclusivity in the eating disorder community” by using inclusive validation, “especially [for] those whose stories have not been widely recognized.”

Added body positivity advocate Malak Afaneh PO ’21: “Often, these movements or events … focus on one narrative which becomes the model narrative for everyone’s voices. But when it comes to eating disorders, our connections to food, connections to body, connections to body image — mind, body and soul — are all different. It’s important to have an event that characterizes all these different narratives of people and how they deal with this struggle.”

Students gather to see Nalgona Positivity Pride merchandise after a talk about eating disorders and colonization in the Motley Feb. 26 (Meghan Joyce • The Student Life).

Attendees noted the context of eating disorders awareness at the 5Cs.

“It’s important to have [events in spaces] like this — at Scripps, at the Motley — that are historically very white,” Motley community intern Andrea Flores SC ’21 said. “We should acknowledge that there are students from [indigenous] backgrounds that are having a hard time navigating these spaces, and that that struggle is physically, mentally and spiritually taking a toll on their bodies.”

Students also recognized the general importance of engaging with mental health campaigns such as NEDA Week.

NEDA Week gives me hope,” Ann-Ylagan said. “It is encouraging to know that there is a national movement committed to expanding the conversation, increasing understanding and empathy and encouraging those suffering towards recovery.”

Afaneh highlighted the ability of large campaigns to hold communities accountable for the well-being of individuals.

If [someone sees] someone acting differently, instead of thinking, ‘I should reach out,’ they shut the person out,” Afaneh said. “This week promotes accountability in the sense that people are held accountable of how they respond to others. Now, instead, they can say, ‘Because I care about mental health and because I care about you, we can go forward together.’”

The Scripps Eating Disorders Alliance is open to all students, faculty, and staff at the Claremont Colleges and those interested can join anytime. For more information, email scrippsedalliance@gmail.com.

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